What causes stretch marks, exactly? Fun fact: stretch marks are a type of scar. When the skin is stretched or injured, new collagen fibers are formed at the stress points as part of the healing process, leaving marks behind.
There is no sure way to prevent stretch marks and other scars, and they are difficult to eliminate completely, says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist certified by the Baxt Cosmedical board in Paramus, New Jersey.
However, some stretch mark treatments promise to reduce their size or appearance or eliminate them completely. We have developed how well these work.
Topical treatments of stretch marks.
What they are: Available online and in pharmacies, creams, body oils, serums and sheets of silicone gel claim that their active ingredients will reduce scars or prevent and fade stretch marks.
What we know: The data are not conclusive and the results of the study are mixed. "The research has not supported the claim that products containing cocoa butter, vitamin E or olive oil improve stretch marks," says Meghan Feely, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City. who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. But those that contain retinoids or hyaluronic acid can repair damaged collagen or stimulate the production of new collagen, says Dr. Feely, adding that the extract of a medicinal herb, gotu kola, also shows promise.
Should you try them? Sure, but talk to a dermatologist first, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Topical treatments for stretch marks are generally safe, but they are unlikely to give huge results. Try them out when the stretch marks are still pink or red, since making them disappear is even more difficult once they mature, says Dr. Feely.
Brands to keep in mind: Gels, creams and oils Mederma ($ 9 to $ 30), Bio-Oil Skincare ($ 6 to $ 28), ScarAway Silicone Scar Scarets ($ 16 to $ 27).
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel
Mederma quick drying oil
Bio-Oil Skincare Oil
ScarAway silicone scar sheets
Procedures in the office for stretch marks.
What they are: A dermatologist can administer laser therapy, microalgae and dermal fillers to eliminate stretch marks. Laser therapy emits light rays in the skin to attack inflammation and collagen. Microneedling offers small punctures, whose healing rejuvenates the skin. Dermal filler injections aim to equalize bleeding scars or lumpy skin.
What we know: These stretch marks treatments work. With laser therapy, light is absorbed by the skin, which causes the remodeling of collagen and reduces inflammation that can make the spots more obvious. Microneedling works, says Dr. Feely, because the "cascade of wound healing" causes the generation of collagen and elastin. Injections containing hyaluronic acid fill the scars with holes, and increased scars can be reduced with corticosteroid injections, says Dr. Baxt.
Should you try them? Yes, but they are expensive. Expect to pay $ 200 to $ 700 per session, and you may need several visits to see the results.
Surgery for prominent scars
What it is: A plastic surgeon cuts an old scar, leaving a new scar that can fade with a treatment such as laser therapy, explains Dr. Baxt.
What we know: There is no surgical option to remove stretch marks, but people with large, raised or irregular scars may prefer the smaller scars left after surgery.
You should try it? Only if your scars are severe and it is clear that this probably will not provide a perfect result.
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Stephanie Anderson Witmer Stephanie Anderson Witmer has been a professional journalist for over 20 years, with a focus on writing and editing stories about food, agriculture, health, parenting, home and garden for magazines, newspapers and websites.